Discovering the Importance of Curriculum Development

Two years ago, political events in Cairo precluded my plans to study abroad there for the fall semester of my junior year.  Instead, I studied at University of Haifa and began my study abroad experience with several weeks of volunteering at TYO here in Nablus.  My weeks at TYO were a short beginning to six months of studying abroad, but remain perhaps the most impactful experience not only of that semester but also of my college experience as a whole. This is probably why—after being evacuated in early July from what was intended to be a yearlong Arabic language program in Cairo—I’m back. When people asked me two years ago what it was I thought most distinguished my experience at TYO, I always said the children. There is nothing quite like the view from the third floor balcony of all the kids pouring in off the buses for their morning classes.  And I will never forget the look on the faces of children in one intern’s class when they successfully smashed a piñata they’d constructed and collected the treasure that fell beneath it. With the exception of a few little ones that can’t stay away and occasionally run with excitement from room to room, the center has been quiet in the last month as Ramadan and then Eid drew to a close and as TYO was preparing for the beginning of the fall session.

Reading Buddies

Although I did not get to see the children rushing in off the buses this summer, they have not been far from my mind since I arrived.  During this past month, I have had the opportunity to work with Suhad Jabi Masri, TYO’s Psychosocial Program Manager, focusing on the development of the Core Child Program’s curriculum.  Initially, I assumed that the task mostly involved finding and creating activities to add to morning and afternoon classes.  Suhad, while correcting my Arabic with winks and waiting patiently for me to write down her thoughts, taught me quickly just how wrong my first assumption had been. Every small activity in the Core Program curriculum is rooted in specific cognitive, physical, and emotional goals for a child’s achievement in the program. The activities are further designed to reveal indicators of development in each of these three areas so that teachers can remain aware of each child’s growth throughout the twelve-week session.

The activities I watched children partake in two years ago were fun and engaging to watch, but I had very little idea at the time just how important those classroom activities were--and continue to be--in bridging the developmental gaps experienced by children in Nablus and its surrounding areas.  Why are kids so excited to get off the bus at TYO?  I’ve learned that it is due, in large part, to a deeply thought-out and engaging curriculum that helps the children that walk through TYO’s doors to develop pride in themselves, their community, and their future.

At the end of this month, I will be moving to Amman, Jordan for the continuation of my Arabic language program. Although I am deeply disappointed to not be returning to Cairo, one of the best parts of moving to Amman is closer proximity to Nablus, TYO, and all those who contribute to its success.

- Molly

Molly was an intern at TYO in Nablus.